What Does Florida's SB 1718 Do?

On May 10, 2023, Gov. DeSantis signed a controversial anti-immigrant bill, SB 1718, into law. Here’s what the law does:

Criminalizes Traveling Across State Lines with Undocumented People, Including Family Members:

The new law criminalizes people as human smugglers who “knowingly and willfully” cross the State line into Florida with people they know, or reasonably should know, are undocumented. The bill defines "undocumented" as someone who has: “entered the United States in violation of the law and has not been inspected by the federal government.” It is unclear what “inspected” by the federal government means, and one of the greatest problems with this law is that it is written too vaguely to know how it will be interpreted and applied, opening the door for over-enforcement and racial profiling. 

A person who meets this criteria, as defined by this law, commits a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. 

A person who travels into the State with a minor who meets this criteria commits a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. 

A person who commits five or more separate offenses (i.e. travels with 5 or more people) commits a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. 

Unfortunately, it is unclear how this law would be applied to different categories of immigrants and asylum seekers and if the person transporting them would be criminalized for crossing into the State. For example, a non-citizen with an active visa who keeps renewing it and a legal permanent resident may be considered “inspected,” but people who have pending applications for any type of visa, status, or work authorization may or may not be considered “inspected.” Further, there is the possibility some people within these categories will be considered inspected, while others are not. This lack of certainty on who will be considered inspected places a breadth of people at risk.

This is why it is important to understand that regardless of a person’s immigration status and the nuances that this entails, even if someone has been “inspected” or is currently navigating the immigration system, they may still be implicated and could be stopped by law enforcement and have their rights violated

The law does not provide exceptions for people traveling with undocumented family members or friends, despite those drivers not being true human smugglers or involved in nefarious activities. The law criminalizes everyday actions like driving into the state to go on vacation or visiting a relative with an undocumented family member or friend in the same vehicle. This law stretches the traditional understanding of "smuggling" beyond recognition by applying it to people who have nothing to do with helping noncitizens cross the border without detection, but who interact in the ordinary course of life with people who are undocumented.

The law is also problematic for an array of service-oriented organizations - such as non-profit service and faith-based organizations - that help undocumented people or other vulnerable communities as part of their mission. This means that people who work within such organizations and may have been doing this work for decades are now at risk of criminalization. Some activities these organizations often partake in and could be targeted and criminalized by this law include but are not limited to driving people across State lines to: reunite with family members; meet with a lawyer; attend a court date; obtain medical care; or conduct other routine appointments. 

It is also important to note that this law only applies to traveling across State lines into Florida and NOT within the State. 

Update: In July 2023, legal organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging this provision of SB 1718. The complaint states that it is unconstitutional for a state to unilaterally regulate federal immigration and subject people to criminal punishment without fair notice and that Florida’s use of the term “inspection” is incoherent and unconstitutionally vague.

Invalidates Out of State Licenses Issued to Undocumented Immigrants:

The law invalidates licenses that are issued to undocumented people in other States. This includes licenses issued exclusively to undocumented immigrants and licenses that have markings indicating a person did not exercise the option of providing proof of lawful presence in the United States. Law enforcement who stops a person in Florida who has such a license is required to issue them a criminal traffic citation, which could result in a written notice to appear in court or an arrest. At some point, the State will publish a list of out of state licenses that are now invalid in Florida. 

As of now, the states affected include Connecticut and Delaware. Please note that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) list of invalid out-of-state licenses is subject to change. Before driving using an out-of-state driver’s license in Florida, be sure to check their website for the most current information on driver’s licenses accepted in Florida. 

Requires Hospitals to Ask about Immigration Status:

Hospitals that accept Medicaid will now be required to include questions related to a person’s immigration status on registration or admission forms. People are NOT required to answer these questions and any answers provided are prohibited from impacting patient care. 

These hospitals are also mandated to collect data on the answered questions, including associated costs of care, and report such data to the State on a regular basis. The State will issue specific guidance to these hospitals on adhering to both the question and data collection mandates. 

Expands E-Verify:

The law requires employers with over 25 employees and public agencies to use the E-verify system to check their employees’ immigration status. If E-Verify is unavailable at the time of hiring an employee, they may use the I-9 form but document E-Verify unavailability during the time it is not available in a specific way stipulated by the new law. 

Public agencies must also require their contractors and subcontractors to use E-verify and affirm such utilization in their contract with each other. The law allows public agencies to terminate contracts with contractors and subcontractors  if they have “a good faith belief” they employ undocumented people. The law does not expand on what constitutes a “good faith belief” in this context and is another example of the law’s problematic vagueness.

Penalties for noncompliance go into effect July 1, 2024 and include the following:

  • If the Dept. of Economic Opportunity determines an employer failed to use E-Verify, the employers will be notified and must comply within 30 days.
  • If an employer failed to use E-Verify three times in any 24-month period, they will be charged a fine of $1,000 per day until the noncompliance is cured. 
  • The State may suspend all licenses until the noncompliance is cured. 

Prohibits Community ID Funding:

The law prohibits local governments - specifically cities and Counties - from funding Community identification card measures, such as through local legislation. This prohibition does not impact existing Florida Counties that have previously funded and issued Community ID cards, unless they want to provide new funding for Community ID cards. 

Bars DACA Recipients from Practicing Law:

The law repeals Florida statute (454.021(3)) which allows the Florida Bar to certify certain non-citizens, including DACA recipients. It is important to note that this part of the new law does not go into effect until November 1, 2028 so that people within these populations that are currently pursuing a law degree should not be impacted, although those graduating on or after November 1, 2028 will likely be unable to secure a license to practice law in the State of Florida.

Increases Local Entanglement with Federal Immigration Enforcement:

The law adds immigration enforcement to the work of Florida’s Domestic Security Oversight Council, whose purpose is to respond to “terrorism and immigration enforcement incident prevention, preparation, protection, response, and recovery efforts.” This includes immigration incidents both within and outside the State but that “affect the State.” It is not clear what the criteria is for determining how immigration incidents outside of the State affect Floridians or how this power will be wielded. This provision is also overly vague and opens the door for abusive and inappropriate immigration actions by the State.

Requires DNA Samples from Immigrants:

The law requires collecting DNA samples of people subject to detainers at the time of booking. 

Expels Migrants out of Florida:

The law appropriates $12 million in taxpayer funding for the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. This is the same program which facilitated the inhumane expelling of migrant families and people seeking asylum to Martha’s Vineyard in 2022 and will allow the government to embark on additional removal operations that are harmful and abusive to immigrants.

Please note that this description does not serve as legal advice and uncertainty remains in how this law is implemented in specific situations

Dignity for Migrants

General Guidelines

Given this new State law, it is important for Floridians and others traveling into Florida to understand the risks of interstate travel with undocumented people. Read on to learn how this law impacts people in specific circumstances and guidance to avoid criminalization and keep people safe. 

Please note that this guidance does not serve as legal advice and uncertainty remains in how this law will be implemented in specific situations.

According to this anti-immigrant law, what does being undocumented mean?

This new law does not adequately define what it means to be undocumented. This lack of clarity is one of the biggest problems with the law. It does not clearly define who the law is targeting and thus opens the door for over-enforcement and racial profiling. If you have questions about whether your status qualifies as “undocumented” pursuant to this law, it is recommended you seek immigration counsel. 

Do I need to share my immigration status with the police or anyone else that asks? 

No. You have the right to remain silent. Legally, you are not required to answer questions about where you were born, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. Note that even though you are not legally required to answer law enforcement questions, this does not mean that an officer won't exercise their discretion to detain or arrest you for failing to respond to their questions; it just means that if they do arrest you, an attorney will have grounds to argue that the arrest was unlawful.

Do I need to share my identity with Florida law enforcement or anyone else that asks?

You are only expected to identify yourself to Florida law enforcement officers (police officers and Sheriff’s deputies, not immigration or FBI agents) when you are stopped on suspicion of a state crime or a traffic violation. If you do not have identification documents, you may choose to remain silent. You are not obligated to provide your name or “show your papers” to an ICE officer for any reason. Learn more guidance here.

If I am a U.S. citizen, and my mom is undocumented, can I drive her around town or another city within Florida?

Yes. This law only applies to traveling across state lines into Florida with undocumented people, not within Florida.

If I am a U.S. citizen, and my mom is undocumented, can I drive her to Georgia for a trip and back?

No. This law may penalize people who drive into Florida with undocumented people. It does not explicitly exclude family members or friends. Under this scenario, the law does not prohibit driving out of state to Georgia with your mom, but would prohibit the return trip back to Florida. 

My aunt in Alabama is undocumented. Can I drive her from Alabama to my home in Florida to stay with me? Can her U.S. citizen daughter, who lives with her in Alabama, drive her to Florida to visit me?

No. This law may penalize people who drive into Florida with undocumented people. It does not explicitly exclude family members or friends.

Can my cousin who is undocumented take a bus across state lines to visit me in Florida?

Yes, as long as that person is not driving and the bus driver has no reason to believe they are undocumented. If that bus is stopped and immigration agents are present, they have the right to remain silent. Learn more guidance here.

Can a family member or friend that is undocumented and has a driver's license from another state legally drive in Florida?

No. The law invalidates out-of-state licenses that are issued to undocumented immigrants. If they live in a state where immigration status is not requested upon issuing a driver's license, this license is not recognized in Florida if they are undocumented. 

Can an undocumented person with a legal license from another state drive to Disney for a vacation?

No. The law invalidates out-of-state licenses that are issued to undocumented immigrants. If they live in a state where immigration status is not requested upon issuing a driver's license, this license is not recognized in Florida. 

Can I still go to the doctor’s office or hospital and seek health care?

Yes. This law does not bar undocumented people from seeking healthcare in any setting.

If I do go to a hospital, do I have to answer any questions related to my immigration status on paperwork?

No. Even if a question about your immigration status is presented on a hospital form, you are not required to answer. 

If medical staff verbally ask me a question about my immigration status at the hospital or at a doctors office, do I have to answer it?

No, you are not required to answer any questions about your immigration status in these settings. 

Can a hospital refuse service or treat me differently if I don’t answer a question about my immigration status?

No, you are not required to answer any questions about your immigration status at the hospital. The law does not allow the refusal of service due to anything related to actual or perceived immigration status. 

Can a person with a Community ID issued by the County they live in still use it? 

Yes. Community IDs are legal in the Counties that have passed Community ID legislation and issued them to their community members. For example, if you live in Miami-Dade or Broward County and have previously acquired a Community ID via a nonprofit organization working with the City, these IDs are recognized in your County and safe to use. 

Can a DACA recipient practice law? What if they are currently in law school?

Only DACA recipients or undocumented people that meet the criteria in this Florida statute may obtain a license to practice law in Florida before November 1, 2028. After this date, these categories of people may not be able to obtain law licenses. 

If you would like to report an incident where you believe your rights have been violated as a result of this law, please call the Florida Immigrant Coalition hotline at 1-888-600-5762.

We invite you to join our Floridians for Immigrant Justice Campaign volunteer team. We have active teams working to make our state better for immigrants.  Join us by filling out our campaign volunteer form.